EU Seeks to Boost Domestic Green Energy Production With Net Zero Industry Act
The European Union on Thursday unveiled its plan to become a major global player in the green energy transition.
Its Net Zero Industry Act sets a goal of manufacturing at least 40 percent of its own clean technology by 2030.
“We need a regulatory environment that allows us to scale up the clean energy transition quickly,” President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen said in a statement shared on the European Commission website. “The Net-Zero Industry Act will do just that. It will create the best conditions for those sectors that are crucial for us to reach net-zero by 2050: technologies like wind turbines, heat pumps, solar panels, renewable hydrogen as well as CO2 storage. Demand is growing in Europe and globally, and we are acting now to make sure we can meet more of this demand with European supply.”
The proposed act is part of the EU’s European Green Deal Industrial Plan, which is seen as the bloc’s answer to the U.S. Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) subsidizing renewable energy, according to POLITICO. The EU is also seeking to decrease its dependence on raw and finished materials from other countries in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and an energy crisis triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, as the commission explained. Before the invasion, Russia had supplied nearly 40 percent of the EU’s natural gas, according to the International Energy Agency. The EU is also hoping to compete with the U.S. and China when it comes to green technology, as Reuters reported.
“The bottom line is that we want to be leaders in the green industries of the future,” Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis said at a press conference reported by Reuters.
The Net Zero Industry Act would apply the 40 percent targets to technologies considered important for the green energy transition, including solar panels, wind power, geothermal power, batteries, heat pumps, sustainable alternative fuels, biogas, small modular nuclear reactors and carbon capture, the commission said.
The act would also facilitate investments in these technologies, simplify the permitting process, make it easier for green technologies to access markets and boost training for green industries, among other measures. It further sets a target for carbon capture capacity of 50 million tonnes of carbon dioxide stored per year by 2030.
At the same time, the commission also announced the Critical Raw Materials Act to bolster internal EU access to components such as lithium, copper and nickel that are needed for green technologies. The act sets a target for mining 10 percent of these materials within the EU by 2030 and meeting 15 percent of its needs through recycling them by the same date. Further, no more than 65 percent of the yearly use of a given raw mineral should come from a single non-EU country.
“This Act will bring us closer to our climate ambitions,” von der Leyen said of the proposal. “It will significantly improve the refining, processing and recycling of critical raw materials here in Europe. Raw materials are vital for manufacturing key technologies for our twin transition – like wind power generation, hydrogen storage or batteries. And we’re strengthening our cooperation with reliable trading partners globally to reduce the EU’s current dependencies on just one or a few countries.”
However, increasing domestic mining could have consequences for EU ecosystems and Indigenous communities. Already, the Indigenous Sami people of northern Sweden say that their way of life is threatened by an iron ore mine touted as essential for the EU’s decarbonization push, as EUobserver reported. The mine is expanding, forcing around 6,000 residents of the city of Kiruna to shift approximately two miles eastward and gobbling up even more of the dwindling habitat for the reindeer that the Sami herd. LKAB, the company behind the mine, also discovered more than one million tonnes of rare earth oxides near Kiruna in January, which could further increase pressures on reindeer’s lichen-rich feeding grounds.
“They [LKAB] don’t see the whole landscape in the same manner that we do when we’re herding our reindeers. And that is of course a major problem,” 36-year old Sami reindeer herder Tomas Kuhmunen told EUobserver in January. “They see this as an island, in a vast ocean of nothingness.”
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